The story of Mary MacKillop, an Australian woman who dedicated her life to God and the underprivileged in the 1800s is, indeed, an inspiring one. At the Centre Of Lightretells Mary’s story highlighting her struggle with, and triumph over, the many faces of authority.
At the Centre Of Light is a first-rate production, from the simple yet impressive set design to the effervescent performances and beautiful language. And it does need to be reiterated that playwright R. Johns delivers many self-assured and eloquent passages in this works. There are so many essential factors working in this play that I was perplexed to discover I was not entirely engrossed in what is a compelling story.
After the play, my friend (who really enjoyed this works) pointed out the obvious – it’s a biography – meaning that the structure of the play is presented in a biographical format. Unfortunately, the choice to present this works as such reduced the intensity for me as I felt like I was speed reading an autobiography, skipping chapters and vital information that essentially builds character and drama.
This is primarily a story about a courageous woman’s plight against patriarchal law and convention, but I never felt quite on board with Mary. For example, we see that Mary’s relationship with Father Woods is a problematic but his character is not developed enough to give the emotional kick that their scenes together deserve. Mary’s challenge with authority is given much more clarity with the character of her father who we experience as a much fuller character.
The performances in this play are simply outstanding. Carolyn Bock as Mary MacKillop showcases a breadth of character not always seen on stage easing in and out of scenes, moods and pace with extreme proficiency. Peter Stratford as the Pope presides over this works like a father figure delivering a bold and confident performance and Lee Mason gives Father Woods more life than the script does. And, finally, Phil Roberts who plays Mary’s father and a variety of citizens is a just one of those actors you feel compelled to watch because of their tireless and impressive presence on stage. Well done to the cast for their focused and adept work in this play.